Stonehenge will kill your kids: “Halloween III: Season of the Witch”

October 3, 2012

Halloween III: The Season of the Witch aka Halloween III: The Red-Headed Stepchild is enjoying somewhat of a rediscovery now, what with bad movie podcasts covering it, and a recent Blu-Ray release. I’m at a loss to explain this, since the movie really isn’t very good. Understand, this is not a situation like that with The Thing, where that movie was just too ambitious and discomforting for the year in which it was released to be well-regarded. Sure, maybe 30 years is enough time to get over the disappointment that Michael Meyers doesn’t show up, but jeez…that doesn’t make this movie any tighter or less goofy. I mean, it has a Stonehenge rock in it for chrissakes.

So, the plot of H3…(sigh). Okay, well, it’s about killer Halloween masks. Yep. See, a dude gets murdered in a hospital by a strange assassin who promptly commits suicide by, er, blowing up his car with him in it. That’s enough to pique the curiosity of Dan Collins, the boozy doctor on call (the always-awesome Tom Atkins), who decides to look into matters at the urging of Ellie, the murder victim’s hottie daughter (the never-heard-from-again Stacy Nelkin) rather than spend time with his kids. Say this, the man has his priorities.

Priority #1 (and probably #2 and #3)

The two of them end up following the clues to a small Northern California town called Santa Mira, where a mysterious novelty-item magnate (yeah, my MS Word freaked out at that combination of words, too) named Conal Cochrane (the also-ever-awesome Dan O’Herlihy) has set up a massive production facility for his company Silver Shamrock. Silver Shamrock is cornering the market on Halloween masks (wait, what?), and Cochrane is cranking them out in Santa Mira. Also, he’s pretty much taken over the town, filling it with an Irish workforce, and setting up pervasive surveillance and a strict curfew.

Okay, some people get killed, yadda yadda yadda, and Dan and discover that Silver Shamrock is producing killer masks that, uh, melt people’s heads and leave them slimy, vermin-spewing corpses. Why ever would he do this? Yeah, see, that’s somewhat unclear. It has something to do with the Celtic observance of Samhain—the basis for Halloween—and the periodic sacrifices it demands. To this end, they’ve harnessed the evil, glowing power of a rock from Stonehenge. Holy shit, it’s like these people took that subplot from This is Spinal Tap seriously.

Behold the movie’s villain (he brought friends)

But on top of that, all of Cochrane’s minions are plastic robots, because, well, why not. I guess getting some IRA provos through Customs would have been too much trouble.

So, Dan and Ellie must race against time to defeat Cochrane and avert a possible Halloween-ocalypse that Cochrane plans to trigger using the commercials he’s used to blanket the airwaves (this being the days of only three networks—kids ask your parents about this).

Any of this seem even vaguely scary to you? Yeah, it’s really not. Sure, it’s sinister and even a bit creepy (the mask-killings are pretty effective), but in the pantheon of visceral horrors, evil Celtic warlocks and killer jack-o-lantern masks rank somewhere around the bloodthirsty rabbits in Night of the Lepus.  I’m not sure what the filmmakers were going for here, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t do it.

On top of that, nothing in this movie makes sense. Dan and Ellie hook up for no real reason (it’s especially ookie, since Dan has to ask her if she’s even legal). They’ve known each other for like, two days. Now, Tom Atkins is cool and all, but he’s more buy-teenagers-beer cool, and not really bag-babes-young-enough-to-be-his-daughter cool.

This may be the most disturbing scene in the entire movie.

Also there are niggling questions like how the hell did they steal a Stonehenge rock and get it into the US? And what the hell is supposed to have happened to Cochrane at the end of this movie? The Stonehenge rock, like, turns him into ice and shatters him or something. Isn’t that somewhat self-defeating for the whole sacrifice gig? Man, that rock must have been pissed off at him. And why does the Ellie-bot only decide to attack Dan once he’s blown up the villain’s lair and gotten them safely out of town? Whoever programmed her must have been in a hurry to get to the Irish pub Cochrane no doubt brought over with the workers and the rock.

Apparently, John Carpenter and longtime collaborator Debra Hill were in no mood to keep bringing back Michael Meyers, but still wanted to milk this cash cow until it moo-ed in protest. Their brilliant idea was to come up with standalone movies that would be released every October, but had no connection to the first two Halloween movies (the only nods to it in this film are a couple of commercials for the original playing on TV sets in the background). This idea has some merit (it’s been kicked around as a possible direction to take the films Trick or Treat and this year’s V/H/S), but maybe the best way to do this is to NOT SHARE THE TITLE OF A LEGENDARY HORROR MOVIE! I mean, even in 1982, a movie titled Halloween reminded moviegoers of one thing, no matter what you put after the colon. It’d be like spinning off Psycho into a bunch of stories that have nothing to do with Norman Bates. Oh, wait…

Aw dammit!

Halloween III pretty much crashed and burned at the box office, and put the franchise on ice until 1988, when Carpenter would resurrect Michael Meyers and let hack filmmakers crank out sequel after sequel after sequel. And then some remakes. In the end, Michael was indeed the thing that would not die. This movie, alas, was just a curious footnote.

One comment

  1. go f yourself dude the movie is a cult classic

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